While Chikungunya and Zika which swept the region in 2014 and 2016 are not expected back anytime soon, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is warning residents to “gear-up for the possibility of a major outbreak of dengue fever in 2018.”
It says that’s because the pre-conditions of abundant mosquito vector levels still exist and increased levels of dengue are being reported in Latin America and elsewhere.
The Trinidad-based CARPHA says it is imperative, as the rainy season begins in many countries, that efforts to stop mosquitoes breeding be stepped up, especially for pregnant women and vulnerable populations, noting that dengue remains a global health problem and, like Zika and Chikungunya, there is no specific treatment for the disease.
“Although dengue is not new to the region, we need to gear up for the possibility of a severe outbreak. This virus has been increasing in frequency over the past 30 years. Reports from Latin America elsewhere show markedly increased dengue in recent months, so we in the Caribbean can expect it will soon be here,” CARPHA Executive Director Dr James Hospedales said in observance of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week 2018.
Under the slogan Fight the bite, destroy mosquito breeding sites, Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week ended Sunday. It focused on mosquito-borne diseases and the risks associated with them.
The measures used for controlling the spread of dengue are the same as those for Zika and Chikungunya as these diseases are transmitted by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti. CARPHA said that as the rainy season approaches, mosquito control and awareness activities need to be intensified.
It says the most effective way to avoid getting sick from viruses spread by mosquitoes is to prevent mosquito bites. Research by CARPHA and the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) shows that drums and tyres are the main mosquito breeding sources in Caribbean countries.
“We need to clean up our surroundings. The two most important things to manage mosquito populations in our Caribbean countries are to manage water storage drums and tanks, and properly dispose of used vehicle tires to prevent mosquitos breeding,” said Dr Hospedales.
Actions that can be taken include covering drums and tanks, checking the guttering, removing stagnant water sources and individuals protecting themselves and their family from bites.
Infants, young children, older adults and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites and enlist the help of family, friends and neighbours to destroy breeding sites.
Dengue is a flu-like illness that affects infants, young children and adults, but can be severe and cause death. Symptoms typically begin four to ten days after infection. This may include a high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash. This illness can evolve to severe dengue, characterized by potentially deadly complication due to intense and continuous abdominal pain or tenderness, persistent vomiting.